A day out in London doesn't have to cost a lot of money. There are plenty of free London attractions, cheap restaurants and cut-price tickets for West End shows, meaning that you can enjoy the very best of the capital without breaking the bank.
Morning: explore London's free museums
Spend your morning at the National Gallery off Trafalgar Square, where you can see paintings by world-famous artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso and Van Gogh. There’s also a free, 60-minute guided tour of the collection every day at 11.30am and 2.30pm, with additional tours available at 7pm on selected Friday Lates.
If you’ve already experienced the delights of the National Gallery, try the charming Wallace Collection instead. Housed in a grand residence near Marble Arch, the Wallace Collection includes portraits, porcelain and a large collection of armour and weaponry. The British Museum is also a must-see for first-time visitors to London. Its remarkable collection includes the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon sculptures and some well-preserved Egyptian mummies.
Lunch: tuck into cheap eats in Carnaby
Whether you've spent your morning at the National Gallery or Wallace Collection, it's an easy walk, Tube or bus ride to the cool area of Carnaby, near Oxford Circus, for a wallet-friendly lunch:
- Soak up the atmosphere and tuck into delicious street food at popular Bombay cafe, Dishoom.
- Head over to Leon for healthy salads, wraps and hot lunches at affordable prices.
- Visit Mother Mash to sample the inexpensive British favourite: pie, mash and gravy.
- Munch on American-style burgers, hot dogs and big plates at The Diner.
For year-round alfresco eating in picture-pretty surroundings, head over to Carnaby's Kingly Court: a vibrant three-storey dining destination. You’ll find a good range of reasonably-priced restaurants and cool eateries, including Pizza Pilgrims, Stax Diner Carnaby and Le Bab.
If you're looking to grab a bite to eat in another area of the capital, there are plenty more cheap lunch spots in London.
Afternoon: go sightseeing around London
Once you've satisfied your hunger, resist the urge to splash more cash with a relaxing afternoon in Hyde Park. Take a stroll around the peaceful Serpentine lake, sit and read underneath the trees, let little ones run wild on the adventure playground or hire a Santander Cycle to explore more of the park - the first 30 minutes are free of charge!
If you can't resist a bit of bargain hunting, check out one of London's bustling markets. Portobello Road, Camden Market, Greenwich Market and Old Spitalfields Market are all good options for cheap shopping in London, and offer everything from food and antiques to clothes and flowers.
Alternatively, spend the afternoon visiting some top London landmarks:
- Take snaps at London’s best selfie spots, including Tower Bridge, The Shard and Buckingham Palace.
- For a cheap sightseeing tour, hop on the 88 bus route using your Visitor Oyster Card or Oyster Card. You’ll pass London landmarks such as Regent Street and Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Tate Britain.
- Make the most of London’s wallet-friendly walking tours: Sandemans New London Tours and Royal Tour of London operate on a "pay what you think the tour is worth" basis, meaning you can take your budget into account while discovering a different side of London.
- If you prefer to explore London at your own pace, you can pick up a free City Visitor Trail map.
Evening: catch a cheap London theatre show
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, return to Leicester Square in central London. Avoid the pricier bars and restaurants found in the square and check out Chinatown – centred on Gerrard Street – which has lots of cheap restaurants.
After dinner, head over to London’s West End to bag yourself some standby theatre tickets: returns and unsold tickets priced at a considerable discount. Pick which top London theatre show you want to see and line up at the theatre box office, but be prepared to race around for your second or third choice!
If that seems too hectic, visit the TKTS booth in Leicester Square, where you can buy West End theatre tickets with huge discounts on the day and also up to seven days before the show. Alternatively, avoid the queues and save up to 66% by booking theatre tickets online in advance.
Those who want a late-night culture fix can check out one of London's free museum and gallery lates. There’s also plenty of London comedy shows on offer, and party animals can enjoy a cheap night out in London.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, take a look at our guide to budget London. You can also discover the top money-saving tips for your trip, choose from 101 free things to do in London or enjoy some of the capital's free events.